Long Haul Flight Essentials For A Relaxing Flight

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As a full-time traveler and digital nomad, I fly long-haul a lot. And I’ve learned that what you take on board can make all the difference to your flying experience. Here I share my list of long-haul flight essentials to help you have a more relaxing flight.

Reusable water bottle

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Long-haul flights are very dehydrating and the tiny cups of water they hand out just don’t cut it. Pack a reusable water bottle and you are more likely to stay better hydrated. Your flight attendants will happily refill a bottle for you. And if you pack a bottle that collapses, you won’t be stuck with a bulky bottle in your bag.

Hand Sanitizer

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Airplanes are breeding grounds for germs. Fortunately, armed with a travel-sized hand sanitizer, you can stay healthy onboard your flight. I follow this simple rule – sanitize every time you’re about to touch something that will go in your mouth. Intrigued? Find out the dirtiest parts of an airplane. And this clip-on sanitizer holder above will stop you from losing it. Related: 40 Travel Safety Tips for a Stress-Free Trip.

How much hand sanitiser do you need for a 1 to 2 week trip? A small 1 fl oz bottle should be enough per person. And if you’re an over-packer and want to pack lighter, check out my guides: How I downsized to carry-on luggage and 25 Easy Tips for Packing Lighter.

First-aid kit

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Packing a small first-aid kit is a good idea for long-haul flights. While you don’t need to pack for a disaster (sutures/scissors etc), do keep in mind that flight attendants can’t hand out even basic medication like pain pills. Put together a few items you are most likely to need. I fit mine into a small travel pill organizer like the one below. I recommend packing:

  • Essential medication (enough for 48 hours)
  • Pain medication
  • Band-aids
  • Anti-allergy pills
  • Indigestion medicine
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Don’t forget that any liquids inside your first aid kit will need to be placed in your liquids bag for security clearance.

Travel Organiser

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You will have to take your travel documents on board with you. As a minimum, this is your passport. But probably also details of car rental, hotel, and boarding pass. Even as we become more paperless, I like hard copies of important documents in case my internet fails when I land. So, I pack this travel wallet. It’s got a zip area for loose foreign currency (or cables). Tips: don’t use a separate passport cover. You’ll have to take it out every time you hand it to an official. Also, opt for an organizer that’s a different color to the inside of your purse, making it easier to find. Related: What To Do If You’ve Missed Your Flight.

You might also like: Printable Packing List For All Trip Types

Comfortable travel pants

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Everything expands with cabin pressure, including you. I long ago ditched the tight denim in favor of stretchy yoga pants. Get them in a dark color and they can still look smart. They’re a great compromise between leggings and sweatpants. And with pockets, you can stash small items like your lip balm or phone.

Neck Pillow

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The travel pillows handed out on flights aren’t brilliant. But at the same time, you don’t want to get stuck carrying a huge bit of memory foam around on vacay. The trtl Travel Pillow is the ultimate solution. It’s as light as an apple (fruit not iPhone!), fleecy and supportive but washable. It’s the perfect compromise for sleeping on planes.

Travel Blanket

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Blankets used to be a sure bet but I’ve been on some flights where you have to pay for them or they’re not available at all. Also, they smell of chemical cleaning rather than my lovely home laundry scent. So, packing your own blanket is a good idea for long-haul flights. This one is cozy, and large enough and has two handy carry-on options – a clip for attaching to your bag or a strap for slipping over your luggage handle. Plus, it can alternatively be used as a pillow.

Sleep Mask

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If you’re on a long-haul flight, and you don’t want to set yourself up for jet lag, you’re going to need to get some sleep. And did you know, that one of the most significant factors in determining whether you will get jet lag is exposure to light? That makes an eye mask a long flight essential. Tip: Beware the ultra-cheap kits – the masks will be so snug they irritate your face. Go for a molded eye mask like the one above which has space for your eyes. Most sleep masks also include earplugs. These may be enough for you or I have a better suggestion below.

How to reduce jet lag: I get horrific jet lag. I’ve tried everything including fasting, setting myself to the new time zone days in advance, and skipping small wine bottles. The thing that worked the most? On long trips east, I travel with a light therapy lamp. Put it on when you wake up at your new destination. Repeat until you’re on the new time zone. The lamps are pretty flat so pack down easily. I even use mine at home to chase away the dark winter mornings.

Sleep aid

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Sleeping on flights can be tricky so you might need a sleep aid. I won’t take medicated sleeping pills on flights – I can’t think of anything more dangerous than drugging yourself on a flight in case there is an emergency. However, herbal, natural sleep aids can help without making you unconscious. For something more natural, I use the Calm meditation app which you can use offline (download while on Wi-Fi). It includes beautiful, soothing sleep stories and white noise to help you fall asleep.

Ear plugs for noise

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Blocking light on a plane for sleep is half the battle. Blocking noise is the other. I pack earplugs and after a lot of trial and error have found that Mack’s 33 dB earplugs are the most effective.

Ear plugs for flight discomfort

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Speaking of things you might shove in your ears on a plane if you suffer from painful ears when you fly like I do, I highly recommend picking up some EarPlanes. These earplugs are specially designed for flights and reduce the pain of your ears popping during take-off and landing. I typically only put them in for take-off and landing, when your ears pop most. That means I can still use my headphones for movies and music.

Scarf

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Wearing a scarf and pulling it up over your nose for sleep is a tip I got from a flight attendant many years ago. It protects you from temperature dips and the various coughs and sneezes of other passengers. Given airlines keep long-haul flights frigid (to stop people from passing out, apparently), it’s good to pack your own toasty face protector. I opt for a neck gaiter because it’s small and can double as a hair bandana, hair tie, sun protector, sweat absorber, and neck warmer. But the Waypoint infinity scarf above is a larger alternative that has a handy hidden pocket for your passport. Tip: some scarves are designed for snow trips and are fleecy. Pick one that works for your destination – you don’t want fleece if you’ve packed for a safari.

Warm Socks

There’s a reason airlines used to include a pair of socks in the amenities kit – you don’t want to spend a long-haul flight wearing hard shoes. I usually pack my own pair of cozy socks. Not only do they keep your feet warm, they give some sense of protection against the filth of the floor. For that same reason, I pack socks that have little grips on the bottom. It’s not much extra but it’s something.

Compression socks for blood circulation

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DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a scary topic. And some people are more at risk than others. The best thing to do is check with your doctor before you fly. Regardless, compression socks can be worn by anyone who is worried about blood clots. The socks above are 20-30mmHg compression socks that boost your blood circulation, and relieve leg pain, fatigue, and swelling. You can find more information about whether to wear compression socks on WebMD.

Slip-on shoes

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Even if you pack a pair of fluffy socks, I’d still recommend popping your shoes on to use the bathroom. And for that, you’ll want shoes that are easy to slip on. I pack a pair of folding ballerina shoes like the Silky Toes above (mine are black!). They pack small into their travel pouch and they’re great as my ‘dressed up’ shoes while I’m away. They’re also super quick to slip on mid-flight and take up almost no space. Related: The Best Shoes for Travel.

Fresh underwear

Honestly, next best to having a shower on a flight is being able to put on a fresh pair of panties. That holds even more true if you’ve got a long trip to your destination when you land. A single pair is easy to pack compared to a whole change of clothing.

Do you need to pack a change of clothes in case your luggage goes missing? The chances of your checked luggage going missing are slim. Even during the peak years of lost luggage (just after Covid), the risk of lost luggage was less than 1%. And things have improved since then. So, carrying a change of clothes is a lot of extra weight for what is a small risk. If you do pack a change of clothing, opt for light items like a pair of leggings and a T-shirt.

Airplane footrest

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Want to get closer to the flat bed experience without the cost? Pack an airplane foot rest. Working like a hammock for your feet, you slot it over your tray table. This lets you elevate your sleep. Be aware, if you’re a fidgeter, it might make you unpopular with the person in front of you. But otherwise, it can really increase your in-flight comfort. The hammock above is also pretty compact.

Travel toothbrush and toothpaste

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Toothbrush and toothpaste are other items that used to be given out for free by airlines for good reason – if you’re facing a long flight with a stint of sleep, you’ll want to brush your teeth. While you can take a standard toothbrush on board, I haven’t yet found a cover that keeps the toothbrush head covered enough that it doesn’t leave gunk in my bag. Instead, I pack a Sonic travel toothbrush that has a travel case. I use the one by Philips since that’s the brand I use at home. The travel version is much smaller than my regular electric toothbrush and is powered by a battery that lasts my whole trip. Tip: don’t forget your toothpaste must be travel-sized (under 3.4 oz or 100 ml).

Essential oils

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Airplanes smell – of course they do, all those humans excreting their breath, body odors and worse, all locked in a compressed, confined space for hours. Toilets, despite the best efforts of the cabin crew, quickly become ‘scented’ and sometimes, even the smell of the plane food can leave me wanting to gag. The answer, I travel with essential oil. Whenever there’s an awful odor, I rub a few drops on the back of my hand, wrist, or neck. I’ve become addicted to the brand This Works. Their travel-size roll-on doubles as an essential oil and perfume for me. It has scents of lavender for relaxing and eucalyptus which stops my sinuses blocking.

Face mask for skin hydration

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Flights are dehydrating. As well as drinking water, applying a face mask can stop your skin getting dry and sore. I wouldn’t recommend a sheet mask in-flight (you might terrify your neighbors – not a good idea on a flight). Instead, apply a generous layer of a hydrating mask or moisturizer like the one above by Bare Minerals. Place a small amount in a travel-sized pot to take onboard.

Lip balm

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Speaking of dehydration, another of my beauty essentials is a stick of lip balm. I’ve been a lip balm addict for decades and have cycled through many brands, finally deciding that Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balms are the best. I’ve even applied it to bites after forgetting to apply mosquito repellent. Tip: make sure you buy a stick of lip balm rather than one you apply with your finger. Planes will bring your hands into contact with a lot of germs. You don’t want to transfer those straight to your lips.

Travel hair brush

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There’s something about long-haul flights that turns my normally lifeless, straight hair into something to make Medusa jealous. Planes are also the ideal environment for causing hair static so I always take a hairbrush on board. I opt for a folding brush. Not only is it tiny and lightweight, it includes a mirror – you know, just in case you want to check how terrible you look at 3 a.m. (Always a bad idea, in case you were at all unsure).

Hair ties

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For the same reason that I pack a travel hairbrush, I pack hair ties on a long-haul flight. No matter how freshly shampooed my hair is when I get on board, it feels yucky by the time I land. A hair tie is a savior for anyone who flies with long hair.

TSA-Approved clear toiletries bag

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Set yourself up for security success by packing all your carry-on liquids and beauty items into a TSA-approved toiletries bag. Then, in flight, you’ll be nicely organized when you want to access one of your items. I’ve got some great ways for reducing the amount of toiletries and beauty items in my guide to How to Pack Lighter.

Noise-canceling headphones

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Unless you want to listen to the drunk man snoring in seat 22C, you’ll want some noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds on your flight. I opt for earbuds over large headphones for travel. But sadly my beloved Apple Airpods aren’t great at cancelling out noise. These Anker earbuds are more effective and have a great battery life, too. Be aware that unless you pack an audio transmitter (details below), you will have to use the airline’s wired headphones to connect to the in-flight movies and entertainment system.

Airfly Wireless Audio Transmitter

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I think this is one of the best inventions in recent years. Let’s face it, airline headphones are usually poor quality and if you’re going to endure a long-haul flight, spending hours watching in-flight movies, it’s best done with your own headphones. And the Airfly Wireless Audio Transmitter makes it possible. Plug it into the airline’s headphone connector then wirelessly connect your Bluetooth headphones. Bonus: you won’t have to pause your movie and disconnect your headphones if you have an aisle seat and your neighbor wants to get up. This is a great gift for travelers if you want to put it on your wish list or buy it for someone else.

Phone mount

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Long-haul flights are the ideal time to get through that fat stack of movies and shows you’ve been meaning to binge all year. But you don’t want to disembark with your hand cramped in a phone hold. Make sure you pack a universal phone mount. It attaches to the top of your tray table, saving you the neck strain of looking down at your screen.

Luggage tracker

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While the chance of your luggage getting lost is less than 1%, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. Pop a small Tile luggage tracker in your checked bag, download the tracking app, and board your flight confident you can see where your bag is when you land. Tip: did you know that if you ask at the gate before you board, the flight attendant might be kind enough to check the system and make sure your bag has been loaded onto the plane? Don’t tell everyone or they’ll stop doing it!

Portable Charger

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Yes, it’s the 21st century and most of us travel with more electronic devices than we do changes of underwear. However, not all airlines have caught up and you won’t always find USB ports at your seat. Boo!!!! So, if you think you’re going to run out of juice on your phone or tablet, make sure you put a portable charger / power bank in your carry-on bag. Tip: power banks take a long time to fully charge so do this a couple of days before you fly.

Phone charging cable

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It may sound obvious, but I’ve forgotten to take my phone charging cable onboard more than once. If you’re going to be connecting your phone to a power bank or, if you’re lucky, a charging point at your seat, make sure it’s an older-style USB-A cable at one end (like the larger connector above). Tip: if there is a risk you’ll forget to take your cable off the plane, pack a spare.

Kindle

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Reading a good book is my favorite long-haul flight activity so my Kindle is one of my must-pack items. It’s less bulky than a paper book, allows me to carry a whole library of reading matter and the in-built light means I don’t need to upset my neighbor by shining the light in her eyes. Check out my list of the 50 Best Travel Books of All Time.

Entertainment

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You’ve read, eaten 3 small meals, watched a billion movies and there are still 5 hours left of your flight. What do you do? Unless the stranger next to you is keen to play ‘let me draw a mustache on you while you sleep’, you might want some extra entertainment items. A travel guidebook, puzzles, and games on your phone are all good options. To be more productive, set yourself up so you can reply to emails (send when you land) or edit your photos. If you’re traveling with others, travel games can be lightweight but fun. And a pack of cards is super small to carry onboard.

Laptop / Tablet / Electronics with batteries

I mention packing laptops, tablets, and electronics with batteries into your carry-on because you’re not allowed to pack them in checked luggage. So, if you’re taking these items on your trip, make sure you have space for them in your onboard luggage. It’s a rule that popped up after checked batteries were overheating and causing fires onboard in the luggage stow. Not what anybody wants. The rules around taking batteries on flights are complicated but in general, if it has a battery that can get hot, take it onboard

Healthy snacks

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Airline meals are small and not exactly nutritionally dense. While you can order a healthier meal when you book your flight, having some healthy snacks to hand can stop you from grazing on the unhealthy snacks they have onboard. I find protein bars the best option. They’re dry, don’t get squashed, and are filling. Tips: if you pack nuts, be aware you may be asked not to open them if someone onboard has a peanut allergy. However, this has only happened to me once in my decades of traveling. If you take fruit, make sure you eat it before you land as most countries won’t let you ‘import’ fresh fruit. Remember that any health juices or shakes won’t pass security because they’re liquids. Buy them after security.

Chewing gum

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Packing chewing gum does double duty on a flight – it will help freshen your breath and keep your teeth clean between meals. And it can also help with pesky air pressure and ear popping. Plus, your seat neighbor might be grateful.

Pen

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A pen is a travel essential on an international flight. Most long trips are international and you may have to fill in immigration and customs forms ready for landing. These are usually handed out in-flight and completing them before you get off the plane makes it quicker to get through the immigration queue. While any old pen will do, I like to pack Rite in the Rain pens for a trip. They’re retractable, leakproof, and can usually write on damp paper (if you later find yourself writing a postcard from a bar!).

Carry-on luggage

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The style of carry-on luggage you use will be personal and depend on your trip type. Typically, on a long-haul flight, I have checked luggage and take a small backpack onboard. Why a backpack rather than a tote? They have more pockets, can be waterproof (good for in-flight spills), keep your hands free and your shoulders well balanced at the airport, and have pockets for your water bottle or straps to hang things off like your travel pillow. This one folds down when you arrive but can also double up as a beach bag or part of your trekking kit. If you want to take a small carry-on case onboard, here’s my guide to the best carry-on luggage. You might also like my guide to the best backpack for traveling.

That’s my list of what to take on board a long trip. Leave any comments or questions below.

Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.

27 thoughts on “Long Haul Flight Essentials For A Relaxing Flight”

  1. Given that carry on cabin luggage weight is usually restricted to only a few kgs, as much as I find these tips great, I’m not sure all the items would fit in a handbag? With food, snacks, socks, underwear, travel chargers and cables, kindle, hair brush, toothbrush, toothpaste, cleansing wipes, soft shoes, hand cleanser, essential oil, decoleur cream or similar, water bottle, sleep kit, pill box, shawl or neck gaitor, ear plugs, phone, light box, and probably a few more things I’ve missed, that’s one heck of a big handbag I’d need and would be pretty weighty.

    Reply
    • Hi Maggie, I usually have a handbag (essential) and a small backpack. Most airlines going long haul will usually let you take a surprisingly large amount on board and definitely a handbag/backpack. If you want a light version, a small fold up shopper will fit the extras like cables but isn’t so secure while you’re having a nap. A fold up backpack is a good alternative. Check out my ultimate packing list for a recommendation.

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  2. Hi Jo
    Been reading all these messages, I have found this very useful, I am going to Grenada next month on my own which I am finding daunting as I haven’t been abroad alone before.
    Have you anymore tips?

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    • Hi Sharon, I travelled to Grenada alone – it’s a great city and very friendly. I wrote a post that’s been very popular for solo travellers. While you may not feel lonely on your travels, I have lots of tips on the site for solo travel.

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  3. Great list! I always take my kindle with me on long journeys, reading is one of my favourite ways to pass time! I would also recommend bringing a range of snacks, sometimes the meals they serve onboard either don’t cut it or taste horrible! Having food of your own means you can guarantee you won’t too hungry before landing!

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    • Snacks! You’re absolutely right. I suppose it’s just so routine to me to have half of my bag made up of food that I assumed this was normal for everybody ;p

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  4. I always take spare undies. I have had my checked luggage part company with me three times now……
    I now also take a photo of my checked luggage on my phone. It makes communicating with the airport officials about what exactly is missing much simpler.
    And I wear a shawl. Acts as a blanket and you can wrap it around your head if your neighbour is using their light, or just rather too chatty……..

    Kate.

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    • I’ve had the spare undies chat with many travellers. So far I’ve been lucky but if I had your experience, I’d only take carry on ;p Smart tip on the luggage photo and shawl.

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      • I have had the ‘hand luggage only’ debate so many times! The trouble is, people who recommend this say they fly long haul and maybe they do, but I fly twice a year and it is 4 flights each time, back to back. Half way round the world. That is 4 sets of landings and takeoffs…..and of course 4 sets of security! If I have everything in hand luggage all that security is a nightmare. To say nothing of running through airports trying to get to the right terminal and gate dragging the wretched luggage with you.

        Now I check everything I can and, as I never fly through America, I can check it right through to my destination (New Zealand to Scandinavia ). I only carry a handbag, with only what I absolutely need. I carry 2nd hand disposable books, and discard them as I go.
        I also wear a very very small waist pack that takes my phone, credit card and passport. I once had a flight with a ‘brace brace brace’ hydrolic failure landing at Bangkok. All was good and we were alowed to deplane normally, but I had to consider being without anything (including no money or passport) in Bangkok, as all my stuff was in my handbag! So now I wear the waist pack under my clothes at all times. Phone, passport and credit card will see me through.

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  5. Very useful tips! Carrying a Kindle has made taking long-haul flights so much more enjoyable. I also won’t get on a plane without an eye mask. Love my Airplane Mode mask which I got from Amazon! –

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  6. My bag always has wet wipes and no I’m not a mother of toddlers anymore. Freshen your face and hands when feeling jaded Also a pack of mints. I didn’t think of essential oil but lovely idea. I like the idea of lavender for sleeping which i can never do on planes, but nap all time at home (makes no sense) and maybe peppermint or eucalyptus for waking up Is fluid allowed ?

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    • Thanks for the wet wipes tip! Fluid is allowed up to 100ml but you won’t need that much – most bottles are under 5ml.

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      • Please please don’t encourage use of scented products on planes! I use oils sparingly in my daily life, but with the proximity and air flow in a plane, the scents of varying passengers add up, don’t dissipate quickly, and oils are very strong\potent and destroy people with allergies, can trigger headaches and aggravate asthma. For your fellow seat mates, they now smell the bathroom AND the oils AND the feet of the shoeless AND the curries, and can’t escape.

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        • Hi Vlad, it’s really difficult to account for everybody’s sensitivities. I only ever use oil sparingly and I agree that the other sense on the plane in a confined space can be overwhelming which is why I do add a dab of oil to myself. It’s nothing excessive. I know people who have asthma, I personally suffer from migraines, and I’ve never had any complaints with the amount of oil I use.

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          • Saying you know people with astma is easy, experiencing how an astma attack feels when someone dabs oil on their hand is another thing. I get an asthma attack when someone sprays deodorant in another room… with 2 Doors inbetween closed. What is minor for you can be huge annoyance or even dangerous for another person. It is difficult to account for everybody sensitivities but you are flying in a closed box… you wouldn’t want to be sitting next to me with oil lol

          • That sounds horrible and I’m sorry that you have such a bad experience with scents on a plane. Has your doctor suggested any solutions? I ask because there are definitely people spraying deodorants, perfumes and bathroom deodorisers on every flight. They even sell these products on board. Hope you’re able to find a solution.

  7. Hi,

    I am “Buttock challenged”. Rather thin or non existent ones as my friends tease me.

    I travel frequently on. 14-16 hr flights from Toronto – Delhi. By 3-4 hours, they start hurting. And then there is frequent just shifting weight from right to left and so on..Any practical suggestions?

    Have already tried car seat cushions. No avail.

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    • Hi Shashank, my dad has the same trouble and sitting next to him on a flight is like sitting next to a two year old who’s eaten three bags of Haribos (he can’t keep still). I’d definitely experiment with padding on your seat whether it’s a cushion, rolled up jumper or an inflatable travel pillow. The only thing I can equate to this is when I sit to meditate for long periods of time (though not 14 hours!). Then, I find sitting with my hips higher than the rest of my legs helps a little. So, perhaps try putting the padding just under your bottom. The other things my dad does are: stand frequently, drink beer and try to sleep. It might also be worth mentioning it to the cabin crew. I’m sure you’re not the first person to suffer this and they might have smart solution. In which case, can you come back and let my dad know!

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    • I have this also! it may be pressure on your tail bone that causes all sorts of pains around the hips. I got one of these and notices an immediate difference.

      [Memory foam seat cushion for back, sciatica and tailbone pain]

      Reply

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